Where Paul Nuttall has or hasn’t been and what he has or hasn’t said or done when he was or wasn’t there are questions around which an occasional lack of clarity has been known to appear, but there are a couple of facts about which there can be no doubt.
One of those is that, having been booked to appear, he wasn’t on the Andrew Marr Show last week, as he was instead on holiday, but this week he was, and ten days after losing the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election he was happy, if a touch angry, to set the record straight about a number of questions that right up to, and even beyond polling day, remained unclear.
Andrew Marr took Ukip’s rather diminished leader through the now-established greatest hits of Nuttall uncertainties, each one being met with a more frustrated response than the last.
Why did he say he had lost “close personal friends” at Hillsborough? Again, that was down to the “press officer that put it on my website” who had “offered her resignation” which he did not accept, because “I take responsibility”.
The grander question, however, as to whether he was there at all, we now learned was an “orchestrated smear campaign” that Mr Nuttall had “known was coming since December”. He was, he said, willing to stand in “any witness box” and defend his claim he was there.
“It’s not as if I have lied about weapons of mass destruction. It’s not as if I have taken us into an illegal war,” he said. “It’s not as if I’ve been caught in a paedophile ring.”
On the question of “close personal friends”, a phrase he has subsequently downgraded to “someone I knew”. Mr Nuttall still would not reveal who. “We are a family,” he said.
Then there was the question of why he had claimed to have been a professional footballer, again the fault of a press officer, who had made the claim on his website. It also appeared on a Ukip leaflet, quoting “former professional footballer Paul Nuttall MEP”, but alas Mr Marr did not get on to this.
There was also the question about whether Mr Nuttall had served on the board of the North West Training Council, a claim that appeared on his website, which sadly went down for “scheduled maintenance” for a full week leading up to the by-election. It has since been rubbished by the charity in question, a misfortune that was again blamed on a press officer, albeit a different one this time.
What he did say is that, since Stoke, he has had “moments of doubt” about his leadership of the party, a rare revelation that no one has yet come forward to dispute.